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Jumbo Package: First Practice in the Books

As usual, we have all of the latest news and notes.

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NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama vs Clemson
It was good to see SDH going full speed.
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Happy Friday, everyone. The first day of practice is in the books, and as usual we have all of the reports compiled for you along with video of Saban’s press conference at the bottom.

First off, Da’Shawn Hand was practicing and leading the DL through drills:

Following the revelation that Hand wasn’t actually driving the car, most pundits walked back the “Saban has to send a message” rhetoric.

Well, the pundits who actually have jobs, anyway.

There is a massive discrepancy in the way Saban is viewed by half-wit trolls and the way he is revered by his peers:

“Nick has prepared the players for life after college, whether that’s been professional football or otherwise,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe says.

Simply put, Saban rejuvenated a storied program on the decline and has taken it to new heights. Alabama has won at least 10 games each year since 2008 and 12 or more seven times under him.

“I would have never thought in today’s college football that a team could be so dominant year in and year out as Alabama has proven to be,” former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer says. “Coach Saban and his staff are very organized and efficient in recruiting, but then after they get all these great players to campus, they coach ’em up, and the results are national championships.

“Most importantly, he’s always done it the right way.”

Agreed, and this situation is no exception.

We never learn too much from the first practice, but here is what we have:

Ben Jones watched the secondary and this is what he saw. Minkah Fitzpatrick was with the cornerbacks. First-team safeties were Ronnie Harrison and Hootie Jones. Deionte Thompson and Xavier McKinney. The first-team corners were Fitzpatrick/Tony Brown and Anthony Averett. It was Trevon Diggs and Levi Wallace/Shyheim Carter.

-- Matt Womack was lined up with the first group at right tackle as he had been in the spring. Freshman Alex Leatherwood was in the next group.

"You can see what's behind you," Hurts said. "We're not looking back to see what's behind us. But it motivates us."

According to Alabama coach Nick Saban and players around him, Hurts has worked hard to address his chief weakness -- his accuracy. In June, he attended the Manning Passing Academy as a camp counselor. Hurts called it a "great experience."

"You see Peyton and look at him and how he prepares and how he performs, it's impressive," Hurts observed. "That's a goal, to kind of imitate guys like that and be ready to play on Saturdays."

“It feels really good,” Hamilton said after practice. “It’s been a little while and I’ve put in the hard work to get back on the field, and I’m just happy to be out there with my teammates.”

Hamilton tore his ACL in the SEC Championship Game last season and spent the entire spring practice schedule in a black, no-contact jersey and on the sideline. The senior linebacker was cleared to participate in “football-type activities” in early May.

Until Trevon Diggs proves entirely capable at corner or another starting-caliber safety emerges to go along with Ronnie Harrison, it makes plenty of sense to cross-train Fitzpatrick at both spots. In other words, we're probably a scrimmage or two away from knowing exactly where Fitzpatrick will be needed most against Florida State. It also makes sense from the standpoint of Fitzpatrick being the top backup at corner if Diggs does join Anthony Averett in the starting lineup. That was the case late last season, when Marlon Humphrey missed the SEC Championship Game with a hamstring pull. Here's guessing if a similar situation plays out again, Fitzpatrick would be asked to slide to corner like he did last December.

Hamilton was in a full contact jersey on day one, so all indications are that he will be good to go in the opener. Fitzpatrick shuttled between corner and safety while Tony Brown worked opposite Anthony Averett in the base group. Odds are that the base secondary will be set with Ronnie Harrison joining those three. At this point it seems that Hootie Jones will effectively be the “nickel” defender, sliding either Fitzpatrick or Brown over to star while the other plays outside. The versatility and experience in this secondary is a rare luxury. Interestingly, Trevon Diggs was still working at CB, albeit on the second unit, after showing up at WR in the media guide. He also wears the same number as fellow defender Dylan Moses.

Ross Pierschbacher had some nice comments about Jalen, saying that he has taken ownership of the team. Jalen also mentioned that he has tuned out all of the offseason noise and stayed off of his social media accounts. If Matt Womack is able to hold onto the job at right tackle, the Tide will have had a full camp with the starters functioning together for the first time in recent memory. That isn’t to say that the OL competition will be settled by the opener, however. If last year taught us anything it’s that the staff is unafraid to change up on the fly.

In the last two meetings in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has outscored LSU 68-33. The Tigers offense doesn’t seem to travel well when it comes to playing the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Two years ago, Alabama held Fournette to 31 rushing yards and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Will Guice get the same treatment in Tuscaloosa? We’ll have to wait and see.

Alabama football has won six straight over LSU. That streak increases to seven this season.

This is good Gump.

Alabama could land its second commitment in as many days on Friday.

At 1 p.m. CT, Salt Lake City, Utah four-star recruit Cameron Latu will announce his commitment. Alabama is perceived as the favorite, but Latu said in a tweet that he would "shock some people."

Big announcement coming today, but his comments don’t sound favorable where the Tide is concerned. Hope for the best.

Last but not least, it appears that Coach Johnson will be sticking around a while:

That should place Johnson’s salary somewhere around #12 nationally.


As promised, video of the Saban presser:

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.